As the consciously intolerant and culturally ignorant persist in undermining our identity all they succeed in doing is portraying why events such as today are necessary. From the elements in the media who have propagated their hostility towards Irish footballers such as Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy, to the racist ensemble who have directed the Famine Song at those who are Scottish born but who are proud of their cultural and ancestral identity, to the fig leaf of the Show Racism the Card organisation who have shown little interest in what the aforementioned players have had to endure, both of whom have had careers in Scotland characterized by ubiquitous racist abuse and the muted response of this particular anti-racist body, conveys the message that somehow the Irish in Scotland are not to be afforded the same recognition as other immigrant communities. It is also vitally important to point out that we do not hope for or seek any preferential treatment, we are fully aware that our friends and neighbours who are of Indian extraction, Pakistani extraction or who are from African and Caribbean backgrounds and identities, and indeed others, have to contend with racist abuse and through visual identification are far more susceptible to racist attacks than the Irish are.
It is facile to merely look at anti-Irish racism and deduce that the problem can be exclusively sourced to those who persistently air such racist abuse through such extreme invective. This is folly and only serves to exculpate those in empowered positions and platforms of influence. It is imperative to continuously focus on all areas where there is a lack of equity for the Irish community and not be drawn into and simply absorbing that such vitriol is exclusive to those who are enveloped with a profound hostility and hatred of all things Irish. Both parties, whether the culturally ignorant or consciously intolerant are persistent in their attempts to demonize and sectariansie our culture and certain commentators in recent times have opined that any overt display of Irishness can justifiably have antipathy and contempt as a recourse. They disregard and are dismissive of some of the fundamental principles of Equality, the right to celebrate identity and the right not to be discriminated against as a consequence of identity.
Last year In England, the Cricket 20/20 World Cup took place. Unlike it’s footballing counterpart, taking place in South Africa presently, many of the competing nations supporters had not travelled overseas to watch the extravaganza. In essence there were cricket lovers who were born in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, London and a host of other towns and cities in England, as well as I am sure from Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland. They turned up to support the land of their fathers, mothers and forebears, including India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, all this despite the fact that the land of their birth were hosting and competing in one of the games most prestigious tournaments. These fans added colour and camaraderie to the spectacle. Consequently the tournament was viewed as an overwhelming success which was reinforced by the coverage in the sporting press.
Yet in Scotland there is a contrasting view which emanates from many, including sections of the press around the issue of Irishness and those born in Scotland who are of Irish extraction and especially those who are overt about that Irishness. Raymond Travers writing in the Scotland on Sunday opined that ‘there is a section of the Celtic support in particular who turn my stomach with their allegiance to the Republic of Ireland in preference to the nation of their birth’. John McKie, writing in the Daily Record in asserted that ‘the fact that Glasgow sports shops sell as many Ireland tops as Scottish tops is both pathetic and ultimately unhelpful’ whilst Jim Traynor, again in the Daily Record comments that he offers ‘no apologies for being a proud Scot and this fixation with Ireland that so many Scots have makes by blood boil’
Many a commentator and columnist within the press actually believe in their musings that they are crusaders against the social cancers of racism, sectarianism, religious intolerance etc. Trust me, they are nothing of the sort. Their views are symptomatic of the anomalies and abnormalities that exist regarding the Irish in Scotland. Such opprobrium does not exist towards the Irish in England, or elsewhere. The racist invective that did exist in such a large scale has been eroded to the point of it being negligible, certainly when we consider it’s more critical manifestations.
Anti-Irish racism can be defined as any attack on any facet of Irishness, if the motivation is owing to Irishness, in full or in part, whether that is at a cultural or personal level, it can be the constant contempt of someone’s cultural identity or national identity. This is as pertinent whether the victim was born in Coatbridge or Croy, Cork or Cullyhanna. The racism in Britain that impacts upon those of Pakistani, Indian or African extraction is generally directed at those who were born in some part of England, Scotland or Wales, yet there is no ambiguity or reservations in deeming it as racism. Whilst the reality is that many immigrant communities have to contend with and endure racist attitudes there is a constant attempt to undermine the cultural identity of the Irish who were born in Scotland. Broadly speaking, and again to give an example, those of Indian extraction born in Scotland are not vilified for wearing clothing, jewellery etc that is a reflection of where their forebears came from and this does not engender comments that they are Imitation Indians or encourage commentators to adamantly state that ‘They are Scottish’ and they should at once discard such adornments and attire.
In August 2008 the same Indian community paraded through the street of Scotland to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Indian independence, they flew the Indian flag and no doubt played songs that pertain to the struggle of liberation. This commemoration was covered in a very positive light on the Scotland Today bulletin later that evening. I doubt anyone would contend that the Irish Community and the celebrations they have regarding the Easter Rising and War of Independence would be afforded such a positive portrayal. This again illustrates the inequalities that the Irish in Scotland endure.
The proudest moment of my brief career in professional football was when I played for Ireland and I was permitted to carry our national flag into the national stadium in Tel Aviv. The fact that me saying this would not prove contentious anywhere, yet in this environment would seem provocative, is indicative of the fact that in this issue it is not my pride that is the source of the problem, it is the ingrained prejudice of those whose attitudes are not replicated elsewhere where the Irish diaspora have settled and made home.
If modern Scotland wants to adhere to the promotion of ‘One Scotland Many Cultures’ and that we are all ‘Jock Tamson’s bairns’ then it has to accommodate those that see Roisin Dubh as their mother.
Go raibh maith agat
Celebrate Identity Challenge Intolerance